Maureen inspired this memory by talking about a time when she was younger when she used a picture of herself as a child to tell people she had a new younger sibling. It didn't last long, and she had to fess up eventually. If you want to read the actual story, go visit Maureen. She tells it way better...
Onward, though. Marueen made a long story short. I'm going to make a short story long.
I should start by setting the stage a bit. My brother is 4 years older than I am. We grew up in the 70's in a small town in upstate NY. There was nothing progressive about us, or our environment. We went to a small school, with the children from about 6 other towns. My parents had very little contact with my brother's teachers. They went to a parent teacher conference twice a year, and that was about it. My brother walked to the bus stop by himself, and walked home again. No dropping off at the classroom door for our generation. Most communication between the teacher and the parent happened by note, or if the situation warrented by phone call (gasp). I tell you all of this because in today's society, my brother would have never gotten away with this at all.
During one of the first days in kindergarten, my brother F was asked to draw a picture of his family. He drew a Dad, and a Mom, two boys and a baby. Those of you that know me already see the problem. For those who don't: read on. From here on out, the teacher assumed we were a family of five. When asked about his siblings, F told the teacher about his little brother Tom, and his new baby sister, MB (me). The teacher thought nothing of it. And the school year progressed this way. When prompted, F would answer questions about his family in the same way- all 5 of us.
Then came the aforementioned parent teacher conference. You know, the one where the teacher gives the parent all the great artwork the kid has done for the past 3 or so months. Yeah, and my Mom got a picture with 3 kids. One of whom she knew nothing about.
You see, Tom was a complete fabrication. He never existed. My brother had managed to pull the wool over this teachers eyes for months. Think about it, a lot of the 70's kindergarten curriculum was focused on the people in your life, so Tom came up quite a bit. My mom suggested maybe he was an imaginary friend. The teacher insisted, no, F said he was a brother. She knew quite a bit about him. What he liked, where he slept. They talked about it a bit, and after deciding that my brother did not have any psychological issues, decided to do nothing about it. No fuss, no seeing a psychologist. Just let it go (yup, it was the 70's- you were still allowed to just be "a little odd" back then).
I'm not sure if the teacher was disappointed or astounded. She simply corrected my brother the next few times Tom came up, and Tom magically disappeared.
And you'd think that's the end, right? Ahhh, no. That would be far too simple. You see, I had this teacher 4 years later for kindergarten. And one day, as my brother met me at my classroom to walk with me to the bus, the teacher asked him if he ever thought about Tom. He smiled. As we walked away, I asked who Tom was. And he responded that Tom was our brother. He had died when I was little. But he cautioned me not to ask my Mom or Dad about him because it would make them really sad. So, I never did. Every once in a while I thought about how nice it would have been to have another brother. And I did wonder how he died (lest it happen to me...) On occasion my brother would hint that it had something to do with something my Mom did or didn't do, but he would never get specific.
I can't tell you how many years I thought this was true. Then one day I wised up. There were no pictures of Tom, no memories what so ever. Even the most distraught of grieving parents keeps something. A relative or friend slips up. Nothing. I was probably about 8 when I finally asked my Mom. And she laughed so hard I'm pretty sure coffee came out her nose. F had duped someone else. That was the end of Tom, though. The only times he was ever mentioned again was when my Mom wanted to threaten us. She would tell us she'd do to us what she did to Tom.
And now you can sit and ponder how I ended up even remotely normal, coming from this.
Have a good week, all. MB